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Is your employer’s dress code discriminatory?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2022 | Discrimination |

If you work for an employer who has a dress code in place, you may chafe under some of its restrictions. However, are they merely irritating or downright discriminatory?

Your employer has the right to impose a dress code but must have a valid reason for instituting it. Furthermore, it must apply to all employees equally, except in limited special circumstances.

Title VII compliance

Overall, your employer’s dress code must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all regulations promulgated by the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other such federal agencies.

In other words, the dress code must not discriminate against any employee in one of the protected classes, including the following:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Disability

Permissible examples

Your employer’s dress code cannot prevent you from having your body tattooed, but it can require you to wear clothing that conceals them.

In terms of clothing itself, your employer can prohibit you from wearing t-shirts and other apparel that contains writing, symbols, graphics or anything else that other employees or the general public, such as customers, could find inflammatory or offensive. It can also require you not only to wear a uniform but also to pay for any uniforms you wear in the course of your employment.

Finally, your employer’s dress code can require you to refrain from wearing bulky or dangly jewelry if you work around dangerous equipment or food. It can likewise dictate how you keep your hair in these circumstances. For instance, it can require you to wear a head covering, such as a hairnet, that keeps your hair contained and out of the food or machinery around which you work. However, if you are a man, the dress code cannot force you to cut your hair in these circumstances if it allows women employees to simply cover and contain their hair.